December 2004

Trouble at t’cathedral. The dean at Ripon has been suspended following accusations of ‘conduct unbecoming’ and he now faces a church trial. In 2001 there was a number of resignations as a result of clashes with the flamboyant dean. The organist left in 2002 saying at the time that ‘working with the dean is difficult and uncomfortable’. The bursar left too. An investigation by the bishop led to the recent suspension. Ripon is bracing itself.


Things you don’t often see nowadays:
1.  On leaving Hawes in the car we were held up for twenty minutes whilst the cows were taken for milking.
2.  A man in the park was smoking a pipe. The sweet smell hung in the air. (Yes, I know you are supposed to cough, say tut, tut and ring the health police but it was rather nice).


 In September Bill Foggitt, the amateur weather forecaster and something of an institution in the Broad Acres, died in Northallerton aged 91. Many had more faith in his forecasts than those of the Meteorological Office and indeed he was invariably correct. His methods involved studying past weather cycles, seaweed, animals’ behaviour, the shape of spiders’ webs and the growth of scarlet pimpernels and John-go-to-bed-at-noon. He foretold the severe winters of 1947 and 1963, helped by the detailed records his family had kept since 1830. He will be remembered with affection by many in Yorkshire.

As will be Michael Theakston, a service of thanksgiving for whom was held at St Mary’s, Masham in October. He was responsible for developing Theakston’s brewery into a national, even a world, brand. A year ago his four sons – Nick, Simon, Tim and Edward – bought the Masham brewery back from Scottish Courage. For Michael Theakston this was a delight as the wheel completed its circle. I did some work years ago at Theakston’s brewery in Masham and remember Michael Theakston as a quietly-spoken gentle man with time for everyone. In his will he arranged for a barrel of Theakston’s Best Bitter to be available for the locals in the White Bear ‘for his dispatch to be properly celebrated’.

Bill Foggitt

At the end of November we went to celebrate the installation of a friend of ours as vicar of St Mary’s Church, Nunthorpe, between Middlesbrough and Roseberry Topping. The oath of loyalty to the monarch and the promise to use only services authorised by the Church of England reminded one of the origin of our Anglican church. It was a lovely occasion at which we, as visitors, were made to feel very welcome. The church itself, set on a hill, was built as recently as 1924 despite its traditional style, Pevsner informed us.
Shortly before his humiliation at the hands of the wise voters of the north-east over the plans for a regional assembly, Prescott, so-called deputy prime minister, announced plans for what he called ‘Leeds City Region’. In this scheme Leeds City Region comprises Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Barnsley, York, Selby, Harrogate, Craven and all points in between. Can you imagine how well that has gone down? The burghers of Bradford and Barnsley, the city fathers of York and Harrogate lumped together in a thing called Leeds?

Crap Towns II has been published (see Diary last year). Luton is now cited as Britain’s worst place to live. Hull has dropped from first to nineteenth place. A spokesman for Hull Council sniffed: ‘We don’t like the concept of judging towns and cities like this. We have tried to maintain a sense of humour about it…’  Other Yorkshire towns in the list this year are Middlesbrough (10th), Bradford (39th) and Leeds (45th). As I’ve said before, visiting Bradford is like seeing an old friend, of whom you are very fond, down on his luck. But Leeds? Come on. Anyway, of course the whole thing is rubbish based on contributions from a handful of the public. Edinburgh (4th) is judged worse than Birmingham (11th). Believe me, nowhere is worse than Birmingham.

I wrote recently about the fact that houses near York are being let to the rich and famous during Ascot next year. Thorpe Perrow, a nine bedroomed Georgian house near Bedale set in 3,500 acres is available for five nights for £50,000. Good luck to them. Constable Burton Hall in Leyburn is a mere £40,000. Newby Hall is up for the week at £55,000 plus VAT which takes it to £64,625. The Mallyan Spout Hotel in Goathland, fifty miles from York, is £120,000.
I recently bought a book called Moods of Bronte Moors by J Morrison (Halsgrove, 2004). Yes, the title is a bit twee but it is a lovely collection of photographs of the southern Pennines, west of Haworth, Halifax and Huddersfield.

A wheel clamper in Haworth has been named as the UK’s worst clamper by the RAC Foundation. He immobilised a car whilst the driver was asleep in the car, used large dogs to threaten old ladies, made a pregnant woman walk to a cash point two miles away and clamped a car in an otherwise empty car park.
Milestones. Rites of passage. At the beginning of October we took our elder son to university for the first time. Mixed emotions for all of us. He is at University College at the University of Durham. The college is housed in the castle next to the magnificent cathedral in which the undergraduates matriculated later that week. The students eat in the Great Hall, the bar is in the Norman undercroft, there are state rooms, a fine gallery and a Norman chapel. There are student rooms in the keep. After negotiating the medieval street pattern to Palace Green, we walked through the gatehouse as the autumn sun lit up the leaves already gold and red. The courtyard was busy with students and decorated with bunting of Union flags and banners proclaiming the virtues of ‘Castle’, as University College is known. What a privilege. I know it is, having been a student at Durham myself some thirty years ago.



Yorkshire Life, of which I’m not a huge fan as they took text from here without asking permission, recently gave awards or, as it said, ‘accolades’ to hotels, restaurants and pubs in the County. Contenders for traditional pub of the year were the Black Bull at Boroughbridge, which has its origin in 1322, the Old Bridge Inn at Ripponden, which I knew well when I was younger, the Chequers at Ledsham and the incomparable Whitelocks in Leeds city centre. Whitelocks is a Victorian gem; its future was recently threatened and one hopes it continues as unspoilt as it is with good beers and no-nonsense food. The Bridge won. I hope that doesn’t mean it’s not as good as it used to be. The awards were presented at a ‘glittering ceremony’, gushed Yorkshire Life, at the ‘prestigious Royal York Hotel’ attended by the great and the good. I’d rather be having a drink at Whitelocks, thanks.


The Yorkshire Post is celebrating 250 years. It began as the Leedes Intelligencer in 1754 and sold in West Riding towns initially. A book, Reporting Yorkshire by Michael Hickling has been published (Great Northern Books, Ilkley), featuring stories reported in the newspaper over the last two and a half centuries. These include the fire at York Minster in 1829, the Hillsborough tragedy, the Valley Parade fire,  Geoff Boycott’s 100th 100, the Blitz in Sheffield, Yorkshire Pals and the fire at York Minster in 1984.
David Rogerson’s mechanical terrier caused a security alert at Norfolk airport in Virginia. Mr Rogerson, from Thorner near Leeds, had the dog confiscated whilst swabs were taken from its rear end. I do understand. Twelve years ago at Boston airport my elder son’s toy Woodstock set off a security device. Something to do with the mechanism for his squeak, we were eventually told. By then poor Woodstock had been given quite a going over. Traumatised, he was. He got over it. He’s still here. He didn’t go to Durham in October.
We are informed that this is going to be a hard winter. Waxwings, berries and all that. No sign of it yet. We’ve hardly had any frost. We’ll see. No Bill Foggitt to tell us. We have to rely on Paul the weatherman on TV. Anyway, have a lovely Christmas and God bless us all.